County seeks new options for revenue

Leaders representing Hood River County are eyeing fresh funding sources that could ease budget issues.

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners decided Monday to schedule a special meeting Sept. 5 at 6 p.m., which will include a work session concerning “alternative revenue sources,” according to County Administrator Jeff Hecksel.

The meeting at the County Business Administration Building, 601 State St., may also take up Hecksel’s annual review and a discussion on short-term rentals.

Hecksel said in a written report that during the commission’s goal session this year, one of the priorities was finding alternative revenue options — one of them being a tax, such as a food and beverage or attractions tax.

County staff has been gathering information on what such a tax, if approved by voters, could generate based on the need. The county has slated a community survey on the topic, questions not yet set.

The county tapped into reserves to balance its 2016-2017 budget, but officials projected a shortfall for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

In spring, Hecksel explained that revenue shortages — such as dwindling federal timber payments — had an impact leading to the budget issues, despite the county’s policies managing expenses and reducing certain programs over the years.

Regarding short-term rentals, the county adopted rules for STRs in October 2016. The planning department has processed about 15 STR permits since, according to a quarterly report from Community Development. About 10 have been in exclusive farm use or forest-zoned property.

At Monday’s general meeting, Hecksel introduced the STR topic as a work session agenda item for Tuesday, Sept. 5.

County news round up

Kingsley Reservoir: The board heard an update from Doug Thiesies, county forest manager, about upcoming projects in the west end of the county. Farmers Irrigation District plans to flood the county’s campgrounds at Kingsley in order to expand the reservoir, a major agricultural water source. The forestry department is preparing an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department grant application requesting funds to help construct a new campground.

The flooding will likely take place in 2018, and Kingsley Campground will be out of public access for about a year and half.

Les Perkins, a county commissioner who is also FID director, said the district should have a land exchange proposal — a necessary part of the project — for the county to consider within a month.

Commissioners asked staff for more budget details about the current park.

Housing: Via consent agenda, the county signed off on two City of Hood River Subdivision plats: Mountain View, along the Sieverkropp neighborhood, and Barrel Springs on Belmont Avenue.

Cell tower: The county set a public hearing Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. to consider a Land Use Board of Appeals remand regarding an appeal of the planning department’s approval of a 100-foot cell tower near Windmaster Corner.

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